Twin golden lion tamarins born at Zoo Atlanta
Zoo Atlanta celebrates the births of twin golden lion tamarins, born on February 11, 2021. The infants, who are a month old today, are the offspring of parents Blixx and Tiete.
While twin births are common for the species, the first month of life is an exceptionally fragile period for golden lion tamarins, which are born weighing only around 2 ounces. Adult golden lion tamarins – named for the orange to reddish-gold manes around their faces – are similar in size to squirrels, weighing only 22 to 25 ounces.
“The birth of any animal at Zoo Atlanta is cause for celebration, but Zoo Atlanta’s long partnership in the conservation of this endangered species makes these especially important births that are crucial to the long-term viability of their species,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, Vice President of Collections and Conservation.
Mickelberg, a small population biologist who has worked in the field of golden lion tamarin conservation for more than 20 years, chairs the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Golden Lion Tamarin Species Survival Plan® (SSP) and the international studbook for the species. Both programs are based at Zoo Atlanta.
Found only in a small area of Brazil’s Atlantic Coastal Forest, where only around 2% of their habitat remains, golden lion tamarins are a species that is considered to have been brought back from the brink of extinction by conservation collaborations involving zoos. In the 1970s, only around 200 individuals remained in the wild. In the 1990s and early 2000s, a successful cooperative breeding program led to the reintroduction of zoo-born tamarins, including two family groups from Zoo Atlanta, into the Atlantic Coastal Forest. The wild population, which ultimately rebounded to around 3,000 animals, is today largely descended from these reintroduced individuals. Despite these successes, the golden lion tamarin population has experienced sharp and alarming declines in recent years, largely as a result of yellow fever. While habitat loss is a major factor for the species, yellow fever is believed to have decimated as much as a third of the remaining wild population.
Zoo Atlanta has been a key partner of the Golden Lion Tamarin Association, a non-governmental organization based in Brazil, for more than 25 years. A comprehensive conservation program now includes habitat protection and restoration; translocation of wild tamarins to safe forest habitats; education outreach; and, more recently, efforts to vaccinate wild golden lion tamarins against yellow fever.
Blixx and Tiete continue to demonstrate appropriate parenting skills, which in this species include an important role played by the father. While Blixx will continue to nurse her offspring, Tiete will take over much of their care as the infants grow.
The family may be seen in an outdoor habitat in the KIDZone area of Zoo Atlanta provided temperatures are above 50 degrees.
Zoo Atlanta is open daily with new protocols and procedures in place to promote wellness, including timed ticketing; hand-sanitizing stations throughout grounds; and signage and other aids to encourage social distancing. Masks are required for ages 2 and up for general admission and all in-Zoo experiences.
Plan a visit or learn more about golden lion tamarin conservation at zooatlanta.org.